Monday, August 04, 2008

Best Actress, The Movie: Based on a True Story

Hello again everyone, Jonathan here to talk about the Best Actress Oscar. You might as well start classifying it as the Best Impersonation Oscar because more than any other time in Oscar history that's what it's become. And that's why I don't think Anne Hathaway stands a chance to win. I agree with Nathaniel, she stands a good chance at picking up a nomination. But award? No way. Nothing to do with her talent you understand. It's just that her character is fictional and that just doesn't seem to play anymore with the Oscars.

It's never been like this before in Oscar history. Last year I successfully predicted in the fall (it's on my blog so there's proof) Marion Cotillard would win the Oscar for Best Actress for La Vie en Rose. Why did I predict her? Here's why: 1999 Hillary Swank as Brandon Teena, real person. 2000 - Julia Roberts as Erin Brockovich, real person. 2002 - Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf, real person. 2003 - Charlize Theron as Aileen Wuornos, real person. 2005 - Reese Witherspoon as June Carter, real person. 2006 - Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II, real person. In the last nine tries only two (Halle Berry for Monster's Ball and Hillary Swank for Million Dollar Baby) fictional character portrayals have won the Oscar. Go through Oscar history and you'll not find another run like that. The Best Actor award hasn't gone the same way. Yes they had three consecutive years of "Real Person" Oscars (Ray, Capote, The Last King of Scotland) but over the same nine year period fictional characters still lead 5 -4.

So who's Best Actress this year? I don't know yet but I'd put more money on the "Real Person" portrayals than any of the others. Sophie Okonedo seems like a top candidate. The movie, Skin, is a true story and a harrowing one filled with, I'm assuming, pathos and drama. But she's unknown you say. And how many people knew Marion Cotillard before last year? And when it comes to "harrowing story" Oscar doesn't seem to care much for whether you're known or not starting with 1999 when only Beverly Hills 90210 fans knew who Hillary Swank was.

Drew Barrymore's another possibility for Grey Gardens but I'm not convinced she'll be good enough in the role or that the Oscar crowd particularly likes her. Emily Watson is playing another historical character from the Stalin period in Within the Whirlwind so that's a possibility too. But for now I'd say the "Real Person" front runner is Sophie. And the "Fictional Person" front runner? I'll say Kate Winslet. Maybe Meryl Streep for Doubt but Oscar seems to accept that Streep has proven herself, has her Oscars and thus they are satisfied to simply keep nominating her rather than awarding her. So, yeah, I'll stick with Sophie and Kate as my two front runners. For now.


Anonymous said...

You're kinda right, but you're also generalizing.
hilary swank in boys don't cry and - partially- julia roberts in erin brockovich did play real life persons, but they were not famous. i mean how many film footage does exist about teena brandon or erin brockovich? is it enough to build a whole impersonation on it?
i don't think so...

so i would say, yes, they're both real life persons, but an actress still has more freedom in the way she creates this real-life-but-not-famous person than..., helen mirren did playing the queen.

It's just not comparable!

But still, that makes 5 impersonation oscars in 6 years (2002-2007), so, like i said before, you're kinda right.

oh well, sadness...

Anonymous said...

Best Actress;
*Meryl Streep, Doubt
*Kate Winslet, RR
*Nicole Kidman, Australia
*Sally Hawkins, Happy Go Lucky
*Keira Knightley, The Duchess

Out of the 3 early frontrunners (Streep, Winslet, and Jolie) I think Jolie will flop the hardest - she has already received some mixed reviews.

Neel Mehta said...

Sophie Okonedo is not an unknown to the Academy, which nominated her 4 years ago. But I know what you mean.

There's probably a fair argument here that a less famous actress like Okonedo or Watson could break into the race by virtue of playing a real-life person. But neither would stand much of a chance against the heavy hitters, all of whom are playing fictional characters this year.

Less discussed is the idea that some fictional characters are better known quantities than others. Aside from other obvious advantages, Meryl Streep plays a character that's already been adapted successfully before.

Greg said...

Transvestitia Transvestitenstein - Forget the impersonation line, that was a stupid lead in on my part. My apologies. I just meant that Oscar currently likes real life portrayals over fictional whether the real life people are famous or not. The fact that they're real for some reason gives the Oscars a level of gravitas, in their minds at least. For instance, when they award Julia, they're also supporting the struggle for Justice of Erin. With Hillary, they can feel like they're taking a stand against hate crimes.


i've been fighting the fight for Drew Barrymore all year. I'm not sure why people don't take her seriously as a contender (I mean apart from the question marks surrounding the film) but as a Hollywood personality she's EXACTLY what Oscar rewards when they get around to seeing the person in an Oscar friendly role.

the truth is that Drew has never made Oscar friendly career moves but most of the Barrymores before her have nominations or wins and she's a bigger star than any of them were basically. So i say... first time she does something Oscarable, they go for it.

and her perceived lack of ability is beside the point --that actually HELPS people win Oscar nominations and wins. The surprise "we didn't know you had it in you" factor.

Greg said...

Anon and Neel - Of the fictionals I think Streep and Winslet are the front-runners and with Winslet having never won she could definitely break the current real person run.

I think Sally Hawkins will also be nominated because the Academy always loves to get in at least one nomination of a plucky British character, and she seems to be the one this year.

Greg said...

Well of the early Barrymores the biggest star was John. He was also the biggest trouble seeker off the set. And not uncoincedentally, he's the one without an Oscar.

And I'm not talking about her perceived lack of ability, I'm talking about her actual acting skills in certain roles. If her talents fit Grey Gardens, and I think they will, then she could get a nom. But if it's a miss for her then no. I feel like she's swung from high to low many times during her career and if the buzz isn't there, Oscar doesn't nominate.

Greg said...

That should be "uncoincidentally" -

Catherine said...

I would LOVE to see Drew Barrymore shine in a dramatic role. She's one of the most likeable movie stars I can think of.

Anonymous said...

If I understand, two Barrymores have oscar nominations: Lionel and Ethel. It's not like they are a dynasty like the used to be. And saying she's a bigger star than most of them... So what, there were only a few to begin with.

And more the point, so what? Affection for the dynasty suggests a strong affinity for the past. But these past ten years have suggested the exact opposite. Binoche over Bacall, Basinger over Stuart etc. New Hollywood has been triumphing over old, generally speaking.

Add that to the major question marks surrounding the film, I think it's easy to disregard Barrymore in this race. But I don't think she's particularly talented either, so I'm sure that doesn't help.


And these things run in cycles. If you go back to the decade prior, you find 9/10 of the winning actress claiming victory for a fictional character (only Susan Sarandon for Helen Prejan was real). And the decade before that, it's seven of ten are fictional (Foster, Spacek and Field were based on real people).

As for who'll win? Don't know.

Greg said...

Fictional accounts for most of the Best Actress Oscars until recently. It's the first time there's been a trend like this. Not sure why. Biopics seem to be bigger business these days than they used to be but that might just be my perception.


jonathan --actually biopics aren't bigger business box office wise. It's only really the Oscar voters that are truly obsessed with them.

arkaan -- sure, Hollywood doesn't care as much about their history as they used to (we see this in a lot of ways) but pretending the Barrymores weren't a respected and important acting family while Hollywood was creating itself is crazy talk and revisionist history.

and pretending that dynasties of one sort or another don't play into voting in this one industry town is also crazy: Mira Sorvino got Oscar mileage from being the daughter of Paul. Angelica Huston won her Oscar partially because her dad was directing her. Judy's legacy definitely informed Liza's celebrity and win. The Coppolas and Cage, Beatty and Maclaine.

it's a small town.

Etcetera Etcetera Etcetera.

but you're right that the film is easy to dismiss if it's not ever going to get any buzz or a big release. My point was always --if this thing gets released and she's halfway good in it, she'd be in the running. It's the way it works. Famous person challenging themselves + respected source material + oscar history + biopics = you're in the running.

I would be thrilled if the biopic trend would end but it doesn't really show signs of abating ...or even weakening. A Cotillard loss last year might have been a sign that the tide was turning but the cycle probably has another few years in it I'm guessing if this long run is any indication.

it is really weird though. Not even the disabled/damaged/diseased thing for male leads --so popular for awhile --ever dominated this thoroughly.

Anonymous said...

You make an interesting point about the most recent winners, and I agree with you ... and I,too, think the Oscars were undeserved in some cases, especially Reece Witherspoon.

I do n't agree with you about Meryl Streep... she has given countless great performances that were Oscarworthy... I think the Academy will give her another Oscar, especially since she has proven that she is still going strong ( maybe stronger ) than ever before.
No actress comes to mind for me that has remained a major star up to her 60's. Bette Davis drowned in horror movies and Katherine Hepburn had many years in the 40's & 50's when she was poison at the boxoffice.

Anonymous said...

I think that next years oscars will have a fictional best actress winner, but ironically the recipient for the best actor will be for a performance of a real life person.

Anonymous said...

Good argument, joanthan and I'm agree with the fact of sophie Okonedo could be one of the five Oscar Nominees in the next year. These are my facts:

1. "Skin" is the perfect film/vehicle of any actress in a Oscar Season. The real person is fantastic with an interesting story and she's a victim of the Apartheid.
2. Opposite to Cotillard case, Sophie Okonedo is not an unknow actress (unleast at AMPAS eyes). She surprised before with an Oscar Nomination 4 years, but I also know what you mean... She not so famous to american audience but she has a decent career in indie and british productions.
3. Politics: It happened 7 years ago since Halle Berry became the first black actress who won the Lead Oscar. It's time that another black actress get an Oscar Nomination to the Lead Category
4. British Spot: Most People said that place is between Keira Knightley (Unfortunally another real character film), Sally Hawkins and Emily Blunt. I believe Sophie Okonedo could have that another spot in only one nomination.
5. Release date: The film has a good release for best Actress Contenders: October

My predictions:
*Angelina Jolie: Eastwood movie + Snubbed last year + Star factor + Suffering Mother * Best Picture Nominee
*Melissa Leo: Indie Actress in good indie film + Consolidate career + Body of Work Nomination
*Sophie Okonedo: Real Character + Victim role + Oscar Worthy Role + Black British Actress
*Meryl Streep: Queen of American Cinema + Baity role since Broadway + Box Office for Mamma Mia! + Overdue actress
*Kate Winslet: Perennial Nominee + British Spot + Oscarish Role + Return with DiCaprio + Overdue actress
For the fifth spot we have:
-Young Talent: Hathaway, Hawkins, Portman, MacAdams, Knightley
-Star factor: Kidman, Knightley, Portman
-Breakthough Role: Hathaway, Hawkins, MacAdams
-Comedy role: Hathaway and Hawkins
-British Consideration: Hawkins, Knightley
-Oscarish Role: Kidman, Knightley, Portman
-High Profile Director: Hathaway, hawkins, Portman

Anonymous said...

i would really like to see meryl streep win her 2nd BA award in february. i doubt it will happen - not because of the bio pic issue. it's really an age thing. young and beautiful is who they have awarded in the past 10 years. julie christie won virtually everything....ny film critics, national board of review, sag, etc. too old for an oscar though. im reading revolutionary road right now. should be interesting.

Greg said...

I think my preferred winner would be Kate Winslet.

Greg said...

Anon - Excellent points all. I think Sophie has a really good chance.

Anonymous said...

I didn't put Emily Watson on my list for "Within the Whirlwind" because I thought that film was coming out in 2009. If it's released this year, then I put Watson in my #1 spot. She's done so many amazing performances, and if this is on a par with her others, she deserves some recognition.

Good arguments for Sophie Okonedo. I like seeing a diverse slate of nominees, and there appears to be some great talent on the women's side (Davis, Henson), so we could avoid having to nominate some loser placeholder on the men's side.

Anonymous said...

I think that the Academy has rewarded some great performances in this recent "best actress biopic winner" trend. It won't last forever, but there are worse things in the world to happen than the Academy rewarding what they want to and responding to a trend. I think it'll be broken this year anyways.

RC said...

i began a real people series over the past couple years...and it's true.

there is definitly less real life female contenders this year, but i think some you mention have a chance.

i definitly think a real person portrayl will definitly happen this year in the actor catagory.

The Pretentious Know it All said...

Meryl Streep has a shot playing a fictional character for a number of reasons. She's Meryl. It's a film based on a play that's fairly well-known. And there's some mild de-glam going on...

But it's kind of amazing to me that some people think that this is Kate Winslet's year to win. Because of recent trends, I just don't see them rewarding a portrayal of a fictional character, especially one in which there's no de-glam. I don't see the precursors rallying for Kate in RR. I was kind of surprised when they did for Julie Christie, and going into the big night, I knew it was all too good to be true.

All the Oscar-less greats...Julianne Moore, Laura Linney, and yes, Kate Winslet will (sadly) finally win when they play someone real. The uglier (or older) the better. So Kate should just slap on some aging makeup to make her look fifty so she can play Cindy McCain and win the Oscar for the scene where she breaks down after getting arrested for stealing to support her drug habit. Then McCain (played by Robert Redford) comes to her rescue, but only after abandoning his crippled first wife (Supporting Actress nominee Glenn Close). Okay, I've thought about this WAY too much, but you get the idea...I think.

Anonymous said...

i go when judging oscar noms by what might get in at he gg eg

best actress com/mus i feel 4 are locked up the 5th unsure


then you have 5 spots for drama

Greg said...

So does Leo finally win his first Oscar when he plays Teddy Roosevelt in Scorsese's biopic? I say yes. It's only two years from release. This is the earliest Oscar prediction I have ever made.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Kate will win her oscar for "Revolutionary Road". I Believe "The Reader" is the ideal vehicle for the deserving Kate's Oscar- Make up + Physical transformation + Complex role + High Profile film... And also think this is Meryl's Oscar to lose (A la Mirren, the only actress who isn't young in this decade)... She's the queen of american cinema and after 14 Nominations only 2 OScars??!!...

I didn't put Emily Watson because I also heard the release is in 2009, but if is changed to this year, like anon@ said, she could be the minicomeback of the year. A talented and beloved british actress with a dramatic and realistic portrait. I saw the trailer and she looks amazing, like always.

My predictions for the GG:
*Angelina Jolie
*Nicole Kidman
*Sophie Okonedo
*Meryl Streep
*Kate Winslet
If 6th: Julianne Moore
*Anne Hathaway
*Sallly Hawkins
*Frances McDormand (A la Maria Bello in 2006)
*Sarah jessica Parker
*Meryl Streep
If 6th: Rachel MacAdams (Category Fraud)

*Comedy Performer (Hathaway/Hawkins)
*Angelina Jolie
*Melissa Leo
*Sophie Okonedo
*Meryl Streep
If: Kate Winslet (For the release I think she'll suffer the same luck as Atonement and Sweeney Todd. I could be wrong)

Anonymous said...

I forgot this:

*Kristin Scott Thomas, I've Love you So Long (Il y a longtemps que je t'aime). The film has a limited release in October 24

I heard excellent reviews from Berlin Festival, Hollywood Elsewhere and The Gurdian that's her Best Performance in her career (BIG WORDS) and she's Oscar Worthy even Thomas could be "This year's Julie Christie".

But she has a big obstacle. This is another french language film.

Anonymous said...

i think julianne moore can at least get 1 nom.Oscar owes her 1.